Is abortion law due for a shakeup?

Stuff 15 June 2014
Abortion legislation has been politically neglected since the late 1970s, when the current law was introduced. But is it finally time for a rethink? The Green Party thinks so, but others are unconvinced. Shabnam Dastgheib  reports.

Abortion. A heated, inflammatory, polarising topic. In a largely desensitised world, it remains one of the few issues that can still raise the hackles of the most mild-mannered of people.

Around 15,000 New Zealand women abort pregnancies each year. Many experts agree the law needs some updating to reflect current practice, but for decades abortion has been a political hot potato left untouched.

The Green Party, with a new proposal to remove abortion from the crime statutes, has reignited debate leading up to this year’s election. The party says its proposal would reduce stigma and judgment surrounding the procedure, though a legal expert says the policy is too vague and will be met with strong opposition.

The Greens’ reform would mean a woman seeking an abortion would not need external approval as she does now.

Anti-abortion groups, and those happy with the status quo, say the proposal would provide a system of “abortion on demand” where women could access abortion whenever they wanted – ironically this is exactly why pro-choice groups are in favour of law reform, saying abortion should be readily available to any woman who wants one, as with any other medical procedure.

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